Hello again, friends! Welcome to another installment of Commander Concepts. In following with tradition today’s article topic came by request of a reader. So without further distraction let’s dive into the discussion!
Part of the fun of Commander is the diversity spun into it by restricting each deck to a single copy of any card. This variety is again multiplied by the malleability of the format. A Commander game can be a hectic free-for-all or a methodical team game, but the options do not end there. Team games can be Two-Headed Giant, Emperor, or Star magic. Free-for-all games can be spiced up with multiple active turns, a limited range of influence, or a direction of attack. On top of all that you can add Planechase, Archenemy, Conspiracies, Cantrips, planeswalker commanders, and other house rules. With all these options I would certainly not have enough time to adequately discuss each one so I am going to limit myself to discussing one of the lesser known variations.
Ever wonder why Magic limits powerful mages to the random cards in their hand? We can summon praetors, warp time, and call through the blind eternities to another planeswalker for aid but we almost never even consider casting the same spell twice. Cantrip Magic offers a solution to those awkward observations. Cantrip Magic is a style of play you can add onto any Commander game or Commander variant. To play you simply select a one mana sorcery without in its mana cost that is within your Commander’s color identity and from a modern legal set. This spell is now your cantrip and is placed in the command zone with your commander.
You may cast your cantrip as many times as you want during any of your main phases with a small caveat: it costs an additional to cast. This cost does not increase each time you cast it like your commander does. This cost may seem prohibitive, but the ability to cast an over-costed spell is preferable to being unable to cast one at all. Last but not least, while the card must be from a modern set, it does not have to be modern legal, so Ponder away!
Almost in compensation for its lack of card draw, cantrips, and small variety of one mana sorceries, white has some extremely potent cantrips. It has artifact themed spells in Ritual of Restoration and Steelshaper’s Gift. Alternatively, a deck with Oust as the cantrip will likely lead to the player drastically cutting removal from their deck and still winning the game anyway.
In addition to the many options for card draw, blue has access to tricky spells like Void Snare and Distortion Strike that will allow you to push through damage and take advantage of commanders that like to attack like Zur, the Enchanter and Thada Adel, Acquisitor. Blue combo decks can also take advantage of Gitaxian Probe to check if now is a good time to try to win the game.
Black has access to a versatile list of options. Discard effects abound in black just waiting to tear a hand to pieces. Your graveyard will stay remarkably empty because of Ghoulcaller’s Chant and friends. Finally black has removal in Deathmark and Bone Splinters.
Red is also flush with variety. Red has potential removal in Spite of Mogis and Flame Slash and some pseudo removal in Blinding Flare. Token strategies will love Crack the Earth while decks planning to attack with one big creature will love Assault Strobe. Red also has multiple artifact removal spells and even a card selection spell in Faithless Looting.
My personal favorite cantrip
Modern sets have been kind to green’s repertoire of cantrips. It has card selection in Commune with Nature and Caravan Vigil and a few card draw spells in the monetarily expensive Glimpse of Nature and the relatively cheap Irresistible Prey. Continuing along the vein of Irresistible Prey we arrive at the straight up removal spell Prey Upon. Green decks of all kinds can find a cantrip that fits their theme perfectly.
Cantrip magic is skill intensive and fun to play. The knowledge of what cantrip you opponent has access to often leads to interesting battles of wit and thought provoking discussion afterwards. Cantrips can allow you to flesh out themes of your deck and reflect the memorization of simple spells that a planeswalking mind like yours might perform out of necessity or arrive at accidentally. Flavorfully, this game variant is an absolute all-star.
However, having said all those good things about it, I have to mention a couple downsides. Without group discussion of which cantrips are boring or repetitive, a game can sometimes dredge on and become a hassle to finish. A game where you are playing against an opponent with cantrips like Oust or Void Snare can be insufferable if you are not putting tokens onto the battlefield over and over. Decks of specific colors also run into problems selecting a cantrip. White has significantly less diversity and quantity of Cantrips and neither white nor red have cantrips which explicitly draw you a card. Despite these problems Cantrip Magic is a fresh and entertaining variant to sprinkle into your commander night.
That’s it for my article on Cantrip magic. What is on the plate for my next article? What kind of commander related topics do you want to see on your screen? Should I write about another Commander variant or discuss some house rules? You decide.